A handful of writers have the power to make the nation sit up and take notice when they address the subject of the Vietnam War. Mark Berent is one of them. Readers know that Berent's books, though fictionalized, have an authenticity that comes from the author's twenty years of Air Force experience. Berent brings a wealth of knowledge to his works, transporting readers from Air Force Bases to behind enemy lines, from the Pentagon to the inside of prison camps. His powerful writing style and keen sense of detail have also provided many truly memorable fictional heroes.
In Storm Flight, (October 14, 1993) the intense conclusion to his saga, the action is touched off by a daring raid on the Son Tay prisoner-of-war camp that reveals some startling information. With American prisoners in terrible jeopardy and crucial national secrets in danger of being discovered, the characters we have met in Berent's earlier books are put to the ultimate test. They must call upon all their skill, leadership, guts, and strength to complete their missions.
As always, Berent highlights his knowledge of little known facts about the war, and his keen insight into the minds of members of the fighting forces. In one exhilarating sequence, Parker and his instructor pilot Ken Tanaka each shoot down two MiGs in the course of one fight, involving four MiGs and an unarmed transport. Despite the chewing out that they receive later from their superior officer, the two fighter pilots refuse to shoot down the transport. Ironically, that decision was the one that saved the life of one of their strongest critics, Jane Fonda, who had once called fighter pilots "professional killers." (This incident is based on a true story.) Parker later makes "ace," a title given to the rare fighter pilot who shoots down five MiGs.
Dedicated pilot, Lt. Col. Court Bannister, his uncle, the seasoned Major General "Whitey" Whisenand, and tough-as-nails Lt. Col. Wolf Lochert, all play key roles in the sensitive operation Storm Flight. With the information from the Son Tay raid, and coded signals from the brave Major "Flak" Apple, who is a tortured inmate at Hon Lo Prison (the "Hanoi Hilton"), the men learn that the Russians are separating prisoners with highly classified tactical and technical knowledge for special interrogation. Their task in Storm Flight is to learn just where these particular prisoners are being held and what is planned for them.
The characters fight their own private battles as well: Court strives to overcome his loss of Susan Boyle while trying to get back into combat after his banishment from fighters into heavy bombers for vengefully tearing down a Viet Cong flag at a Washington protest rally; Captain Toby Parker, while proving he can stay sober, has to look deep inside himself to see if he truly is a dedicated Air Force Officer and fighter pilot; and Special Forces Colonel Wolf Lochert has to suppress his fierce desire for immediate action and play abhorrent political waiting games in order to ram through his bold plan for POW rescue.
Storm Flight is a true tour de force in the military field. Berent expertly outlines the incredible obstacles that American flyers faced trying to win an unpopular war while simultaneously forbidden to strike targets vital to success, as, back home, politicians from both sides traded cliches that influenced the lives of millions. Storm Flight is indeed much more than a combat narration.